Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Phil Ollila

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Philip Ollila (widely known as Phil in the book industry) is the Chief Content Officer of Ingram Content Group Inc., one of the largest distributors of book content and providers of digital printing in the North American book industry.  Phil is responsible for Ingram Content Group’s publisher facing business, and has been instrumental in leading the transformation of Ingram from a traditional wholesale service provider, into what is now a fully integrated solutions company for clients. Ingram combines wholesale distribution, print-on-demand, digital distribution, inventory management and comprehensive worldwide services for both physical and digital content.

Phil leads a number of Ingram business units including wholesale merchandising, Lightning Source, Ingram Publisher Services and digital distribution through CoreSource® and also heads up Ingram Content Group marketing.  Before joining Ingram, where he has held several leadership positions, he was Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising for Borders.

Anyone in the book business, and many people outside it know about Ingram.  It is one of the two large book wholesalers transitioning from a key role in the physical supply chain between publishers and retailers.  Perhaps earlier than any other large company in the industry, Ingram had the foresight to invest in a range of services that would enhance their offerings to both their suppliers (mainly publishers) and their customers (bookstores, libraries and many other retailers).  In many ways, it is only the two large former traditional wholesalers, Ingram and its competitor Baker & Taylor that have the unique perspective and ability to act as really powerful and influential transformative agencies as the book business evolves into a combination of print and digital products.

Phil Ollila is therefore now in a key role at a tremendously interesting and  fast moving business that possesses a great deal of information valuable to publishers and to anyone interested in how publishing, books and readers will interact in the future, both near term and much, much farther into the future.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Mike Shatzkin

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Mike Shatzkin, is the founder and operator of a well known book industry consulting business called The Idea Logical Company.  He’s also a blogger extraordinaire who writes incisively about issues in the book industry at The Shatzkin Files and who is never afraid to make public predictions about the future of books and the book business he knows so well, having essentially grown up in the business from an early age.  He is an organizer of conferences, and a frequent speaker at publishing industry gatherings large and small.

The description of Idea Logical on its website sums up Mike’s role pretty succinctly: “The Idea Logical Company consults to book publishers and their trading partners about the changes engendered by digital transformation to every component of the value chain.”  Mike has spent thirty years addressing all sorts of issues and problems for publishing and retailing clients of all sizes.  In recent years, his work has focused on the changes created for the publishing industry by a variety of new and emerging digital technologies.  He was an early advocate of digital publishing, and also established the concept of “verticality” or subject specific publishing as a way to organize publishing around digital technologies.

Beyond his interest and expertise in publishing, Mike is also a writer and an active entrepreneur.  In this interview, we did not discuss any of his baseball related writing, editing, publishing and website development – if we had, it’s likely we would have used up all our time talking about our mutually shared passion, a subject in which Mike has also had an entire career simultaneously with his consulting work and constant thinking and analysis about books, publishers, readers and the business that serves them.

In my opinion, Mike talks just as clearly and intelligently, if not more so, than he writes, which given his writing talents, is saying alot.  We certainly had a lot of fun in this conversation, which I think will be useful and interesting to anyone interested in the future of books and reading.  As Mike says in his latest blog post: “Sometimes, and it would seem quite often these days, the future comes faster than you expected it.”

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Rick Richter

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I believe these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

I’ve known Rick Richter for a number of years.  He is smart, energetic and incredibly creative.  I am told he plays a mean guitar too.  He’s unusual in publishing for having been a leader in both sales and editorial, and for being at heart, an innovator and entrepreneur.  I have talked to him a number of times over the past couple of years about his thinking and ideas, and have been interested in his new venture, Ruckus Media since it was still a brainstorm generated idea.  Unlike many brainstormed ideas, this one has become real, and very quickly too.

Ruckus represents at least one budding trend in publishing for kids – which is to be born digital and to stay that way.  Print, ink and paper will be someone else’s job.  At a recent Digital Book World presentation, Rick’s signature statement about his new work was this: “books you can play with and games you can read.”

Rick is currently President, CEO, and Chair, Ruckus Media Group.  Previous to founding Ruckus, he was President and Publisher of the Simon & Schuster Children’s Division (1996 – 2008).  In 1990, Rick co-founded Candlewick Press, the prestigious children’s publisher based in Boston.

“The goal of Ruckus is to combine the most creative minds in children’s media with tremendously exciting new mobile devices. We’ll be satisfied when a mom or dad can hand their phone or tablet to their child without one ounce of guilt, knowing that the experience the child is about to have will entertain them, challenge them, perhaps make them giggle, and be utterly satisfying.” Beginning in May, Rick will be an adjunct professor at the NYU Master of Science Program in Publishing.

Rick and I had a great talk, not just about what he is doing at Ruckus to make change and create a new way of publishing for kids, but also about the future of digital publishing and much more.  Ruckus, along with a number of other new digital publishers are in the process of establishing new ways for children to experience books and reading in some very exciting ways.  And it looks like they are having alot of fun doing it.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Betsy Lerner

December 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks, The Future

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

A few weeks ago I read a piece by Betsy Lerner in Publishing Perspectives, the excellent online newsletter about the publishing business edited by Ed Nawotka.  It was called “Should I Tweet” and was adapted from the new updated edition of Betsy’s book “The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice for Writers.”  It’s a great piece, that says some important things about marketing and publishing aimed at writers (but good for everyone else in publishing to read too), and instantly made me want to talk to her (and buy her book).  This little quote from near the end of the essay really grabbed me:

“I’m not saying that everyone can or should be creating a personal literary dynasty, but it’s essential for authors to be thinking about how to market themselves. Always has been. Sometimes they cry, “but I’m no good at marketing,” or “Isn’t that the publisher’s job?” I think publishers should help authors think about what they can do early on in the process, whether it’s creating a blog, developing mailing lists, or getting speaking engagements lined up. If you’re lucky enough to be signed up without a platform, start working on one! Marketing and selling books is not for the faint of heart. Whitman knew that. Palahniuk knows it. Jay Conrad Levinson preaches it.

But no one knew it better than P.T. Barnum, “Without promotion something terrible happens,” he said. “Nothing!”

Betsy is herself of course, a terrific writer, as well as being a successful agent.  I admire her blog, where she extends the work she did in The Forest for the Trees.  She is funny and smart, entertaining and instructive, and obviously talented.  Her opinions are definitely worth knowing, and her advice for writers is always great stuff.  She’s a poet, and was for many years a successful commercial editor, and then became an agent with a great list of client writers; she is a partner at the Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency.  She wrote another book called Food and Loathing about her issues with eating and depression. She received an MFA from Columbia University in Poetry and was the recipient of a Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and was one of PEN’s Emerging Writers in 1987. She also received the Tony Godwin Publishing Prize for Editors Under 35.  And Betsy also gives talks on every aspect of the publishing process from her perspective as a writer, former editor and agent.

We had a great conversation about books, publishing and marketing, during which I learned a few things and gained some valuable insights.  A key point she makes is how important it is for writers to understand their role in the publishing process.  While we are certainly in a period of heightened difficulties, the challenges writers (and publishers) face today are really not that different from what they have always been.  The specific tools we use may change, but the principles of marketing books remain the same.  Writers are in fact entrepreneurs, and not just “writers” and they must always be engaged in the public process of publishing, in a measure most likely equal to their own actual abilities.  And she also reminds us of the central matter: that the quality of the work must always be the focus of everything.  Everything else is secondary.

After talking to Betsy, I’m now looking forward to reading The Forest for the Trees – and sooner rather than later.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Rich Freese

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Rich Freese is well known in the book business as a successful member of a very small “fraternity” of distribution experts who work in and understand the intricacies of sales, marketing, warehousing, logistics, and balancing customer and client relationships.  He has worked in publishing for his entire adult life.  He’s a smart, dedicated and forward looking professional.  Rich worked for independent publisher distributor National Book Network for a number of years, moved on to run Motorbooks International, a specialist publisher and distributor, then became President of west coast based Publishers Group West, and after a brief stop establishing a distribution division for the printer, Bookmasters, and has now returned to be the President of NBN, which is based in Lanham, Maryland.

Because book distributors stand in the middle of the supply chain, their worldview is often broader than other entities within the book business.   Rich’s breadth and depth of experience in publishing and distribution gives him a unique vantage point from which to view and understand the publishing industry.  I thought it would be interesting to talk to him broadly about his current perspective on the ongoing changes in the industry, with some special reference to developing e-book distribution models, the particular issues for independent publishers, and the evolution of publishing models.  This talk ought to be particularly useful for independent publishers and anyone interested in their future in a chaotic, challenging marketplace for books.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews John Oakes

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

OR Books was founded in 2009 by two very experienced book publishing veterans, Colin Robinson and John Oakes, who realized that after many years, that the way books have been published and sold in the 20th century no longer applies in the 21st.  John’s description of their new venture (as told to O’Reilly Radar for their “TOC Evolvers” series) goes like this:

OR Books is driven by two concepts. Well, three. One: the current system of distribution and production, returns and discounts, in publishing doesn’t work for stores, authors, or publishers. Two: we will publish politically progressive and culturally adventurous work. Three: the classic rules of publishing still hold true: you need good editing, design, and marketing.

To address the first concept, we decided to scratch the Byzantine rules that surround the distribution and production of books: we sell straight to consumers, do intensive marketing, and then license the book to “traditional publishers.” We generally do not sell to wholesalers or booksellers, be they independent, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. We are “platform agnostic,” offering consumers their books as ebooks or in physical, printed form. They choose.

I originally wanted to interview both John and Colin together, but the timing did not work out.  Colin was someplace exotic like London, so I talked to John in his tiny home office in Manhattan.  We had a great talk, as there is alot to talk about.  Alert to listeners, and while this is the longest Publishing Talks interview I have done, at about 45 minutes long, I think well worth the investment of time and you can always listen to it in more than one sitting.

OR Books was founded by John Oakes and Colin Robinson as a publishing company embracing e-books and other new technologies. They have already published some excellent (and timely) books, their first being Going Rouge (a great book to launch with), Eileen Myles’ riveting novel Inferno, and Doug Rushkoff’s new Program or be Programmed.  Their work is political, cultural, and literary, and so far has been terrifically interesting work.

John Oakes co-founded the publishing company Four Walls Eight Windows. When his company was purchased by the Avalon Publishing Group, he became publisher of Thunder’s Mouth Press, co-publisher of Nation Books, and vice president of Avalon. Among the authors he has published are Andrei Codrescu, Sue Coe, R. Crumb, Cory Doctorow, Andrea Dworkin, Abbie Hoffman, Gordon Lish, Harvey Pekar, Rudy Rucker, John Waters and Edmund White. Oakes serves on the board of PEN America. He has written for the Associated Press, the International Herald Tribune, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

Colin Robinson was until recently a senior editor at Scribner. Previously he was managing director of Verso Books and publisher of The New Press. Among the authors he has published are Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Mike Davis, Norman Finkelstein, Eduardo Galeano, Eric Hobsbawm, Lewis Lapham, Mike Marqusee, Rigoberta Menchú, Matt Taibbi and Jann Wenner. He has written for a broad range of publications including The New York Times, The Sunday Times (London) and The Guardian (London) and has appeared on a wide range of broadcast media including NPR (“On the Media”), CNN, MSNBC, CBC and CSPN.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Andy Campbell

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

When I recently accidentally discovered the work of UK writer Andy Campbell, I was completely blown away.  First because the work is so good, imaginative, creative that makes full use of the digital environment to tell stories in a thoroughly new way.  But second, simply because I was so surprised that he had been doing this work for so long, and I had never learned of it before now.  It’s just proof that the creative world we inhabit is so vast and full of creative individuals, fragmented and as full of stars as the night sky.  And it is great fun to find new kinds of writers and writing, and learn so much from their own experiences.

Andy Campbell is a digital writer who has been working at the forefront of digital fiction since 1994. He is the author of Dreaming Methods, a website described by the UK’s Times Educational Supplement as “One of the most impressive purveyors of the new art of internet reading… a distinctive voice that couldn’t be replicated in print.” He is also co-director of One to One Productions Ltd, creating and facilitating multimedia projects for charities, arts organizations and others.

Andy is great fun to talk to, has some valuable insights and thoughts about the emergence and future of digital storytelling, and I hope this talk will gain him some new readers for his really exciting story telling.  I think his work represents a profound shift in the way our culture imagines and tells its stories.  (below a small screenshot from Nightingales Playground – “a young man attends a school reunion only to discover none of his old friends remember the same things he does”).  Do visit Dreaming Methods, it is well worth the time to explore (and support this digital innovator by subscribing).

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Peter Brantley

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Peter Brantley is the Director of the Bookserver Project at the (totally cool) Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based not for profit library. He contributes regularly to several blogs on libraries and publishing, discussing transformations in media and information access. He serves on the board of the International Digital Publishing Forum, the standards setting body for digital books. Peter has significant experience with academic research libraries and digital library development programs, and was previously the Executive Director of the Digital Library Federation, a not for profit membership organization of research and national libraries.

As Peter pointed out to me recently, the word “rant” is a part of his name.  So we could expect him to have something interesting to say about almost any subject related to books and the digital landscape.  I think that comes across well in our talk.  He brings to bear his experience as a librarian but also has a broad perspective on many subjects simply because he pays attention to so many ideas and developments across a wide spectrum of subject areas and interest groups.  We had a lot of fun talking together, and hope listeners will enjoy our talk as well.

I am happy to say that this is the 100th post on Writerscast, a milestone of sorts, I suppose.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Eoin Purcell

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.
I believe these interviews give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed within the industry.

Eoin Purcell works and lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is a publishing industry analyst and commentator. He runs Green Lamp Media, a publishing and publishing services company and also edits Irish Publishing News.

He has worked as Commissioning Editor with one of Ireland’s oldest independent publishers Mercier Press and at Nonsuch Ireland (now The History Press Ireland). He writes occasional blog posts and columns on the Irish book trade for The Bookseller magazine.

I was prompted to talk to Eoin by his persuasive and cogent article that appeared in (Ed Nawotka’s highly recommended online newsletter) Publishing Perspectives called “E-Books are a Cul-de-sac: Why Publishing Needs to Rethink its Digital Strategy.”  In my view, Eoin consistently thinks and writes clearly about the unfolding future of a digital publishing future.  In this conversation we talked mainly about how publishers (and authors) can and must adapt to the emerging environment created by new technology (and new distribution models), including practical ideas and actions they can take to embrace new tools and methods of reaching readers in a profitable way.  He expressed his view that publishers need to focus on longer term trends, the values they can provide to readers (and writers) and then build their businesses around identifiable communities of readers.  We also talked about the differences in marketing paradigms that digital publishing establishes for publishers, the idea of “publishing as community” and much more.

Eoin provides a fresh, incisive perspective along with realistic ideas and strategies for publishers who want to embrace a new paradigm of publishing based on a web-centric environment.  I think this conversation will be valuable to anyone (publisher or author) who is interested in creating a successful digital strategy for the long term future.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Margo Baldwin

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.
How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.
I believe these interviews give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed within the industry.

Margo Baldwin is the co-founder of Chelsea Green Press, an outstanding and fiercely independent publisher now based in White River Junction, Vermont.  We’ve known each other a long time, and over the years, we’ve had opportunities to talk about publishing and politics on many different levels, so this interview is really a continuation of that ongoing conversation about books and ideas, and the role independent publishing can play in making real social change.  Chelsea Green’s work extends far beyond the books it publishes, to blogs, websites, video, political movements, and community involvement.  The company’s 2003 mission statement is a powerful – and sobering – expression of what a socially engaged publisher might be in the 21st century.

“Indeed, one begins to wonder what “living” really means or will come to mean in the opening decade of the twenty-first century. Can anything be deemed sustainable when life itself–in all its myriad forms–is threatened at so many levels?  Is it enough to focus on the how-to of ‘green living’ in the face of such overwhelming force, the ‘shock and awe’ of forest and ecosystem destruction, the rampant plundering of the world’s oceans, the terror of GMO-contaminated-food, and the unintended consequences of biotechnology? We wish to move the company forward boldly and with a new sense of urgency. While continuing our commitment to remain at the forefront of information about green building, organic growing, and renewable energy – the practical aspects of sustainability – we will also publish for a new politics of sustainability, for the cultural resistance that living demands of us now.”

In our Publishing Talks conversation, Margo talks about the history of Chelsea Green, where it is today, and where her vision of publishing will lead the company in the future as it tries to carry out its bold and important mission.  The recently announced partnership between Chelsea Green and Vermont’s Northshire Books is a great example of the creative thinking that Margo and her company are practicing.

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